Natural solutions to summer colds

As we age, Canadians everywhere come to understand that the winter months are synonymous with ‘cold & flu’ season. These are the months where homes are sealed against the natural elements, creating an environment that is more hospitable to bacterial and viral transmission.

Cold and Flu | Immune Health

Owen Wiseman

06 July 2021

What about colds that occur in the summer months?

Many Canadians will mistake summer colds for seasonal allergies because they can stick around for extended periods of time. Certain key symptoms can help differentiate the illnesses including those of itchy eyes present with allergies. Another difference is the etiology or cause of the condition, which for summer colds, often falls on members of the enterovirus genus.

What are enteroviruses?

Enteroviruses are named for their route of transmission, mainly the intestinal tract. However, they are also heavily involved in respiratory conditions, especially in children and neonates. This genus of virus falls into the family known as picornavirus', along with its siblings in the rhinovirus genus. They tend to spread more easily through contact with bodily secretions like saliva and mucous (cue the snotty child).

Why they are more common in the summer months than rhinoviruses?

We witnessed an outbreak of this virus (EV D68) occur in the summer of 2014 in Ontario. Through 2016, there were also reports from public health authorities across British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario of cases.

There is plenty of research being done to understand why enteroviruses tend to peak in summer, but a concrete answer continues to elude scientists. The early research points to dew point temperature and other measures of humidity as culprits.

What are the symptoms of summer colds?

Unsurprisingly, symptoms can match other respiratory illnesses, but may impact the spinal cord in certain children. You'll understand the relation a bit better in the next section. In the event you or your loved ones develop symptoms like drooping, weakness or acute difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. You might be asked to undergo stool testing or a nasopharyngeal swab to determine the cause.

What are some other manifestations of enteroviruses?

While the respiratory infections are some of the most common, others include hand-foot-and-mouth disease, herpangina and polio.

  • Hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Causes painful sores inside the mouth with a rash appearing on the hands and feet, through other areas may be involved. It most often appears in children under 10.
  • Herpangina. This flu-like condition manifests with gray bumps appearing inside the mouth and throat within two days of symptom onset.
  • Polio. This infamous condition could be quite mild and resemble a flu. It could also be quite severe and lead to widespread paralysis. Thankfully, continued vaccinations since the 1950s have caused this condition to become extraordinarily rare. Though it's worth noting that Canadians in low polio vaccine uptake areas may be at risk of the life-altering infection.

What are the risk factors?

You may be more at risk of summer colds if you spend lots of time near kids or in enclosed spaces with others. While they affect kids more, don't let that lull you into a false sense of security.

Now reflect on the use of air conditioners through the warmer months. While they keep Canadians more comfortable, the abrupt transition from outdoor temperatures and humidity to those inside can negatively impact the respiratory tract. Gradual adaptations of approximately 2°–3° place far less stress on human systems.

Growing evidence supports the connection between how airtight a home is and an increase in the concentration of viral particles and allergens.

What can be done to help prevent the spread of summer colds?

  • As always, hand washing is one of the best ways to protect ourselves against various pathogens. It can limit their spread, especially when that wonderful child wipes their boogers on you.
  • It also helps to stay hydrated as the kidneys can more effectively process waste products and balance electrolytes.
  • While many Canadians turn to supplemental vitamins, maintaining a robust and diverse diet throughout the year provides the nutrients we need to stave off acute infections.

What can I do for my immunity?

Supporting your immune system bolsters more than just your defense against summer colds. Clinical evidence has shown that Echinaforce can reduce the incidence of those nasty colds by supporting the production of immune messengers like interferon.

This may explain the research demonstrating it can reduce the severity and duration of common cold symptoms, reduce the need for antibiotics in children and reduce the risk of secondary infections like pneumonia and bronchitis.

The addition of elderberry may provide further immunological support as a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial saw a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers. A meta-analysis of elderberry supplementation saw the authors conclude that, "These findings present an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections, and a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza". These studies lend value to a trial showing Echinaforce Hot Drink, a combination of echinacea and elderberry, was comparable to the anti-flu medication oseltamivir.

It can be helpful to speak with your primary care provider to determine what options are right for you.

This article does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.